The Penance of Jane Shore in St Paul's Church William Blake Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Jane Shore was famous back in 15th-century England, as the mistress of the King of England, Edward IV. After the King's demise, this woman was publicly denounced as a harlot and compelled to do public penance for her sins. This 19th-century painting depicts Jane Shore wearing humble attire and carrying a lighted taper, surrounded by a crowd of guards.

The painting is a combination of ink, watercolour and gouache. The painter had originally covered the painting with varnish, that yellowed with time. The yellowed varnish imbues the painting with a subtle, golden hue and seems to have suppressed the quality of the colouring. It seems to lend an other-worldly appearance to the depicted scene. Edward IV was the last of the Yorkist Kings and seems to have been somewhat overshadowed by his Lancastrian successors, such as Henry VIII, which is probably the reason why Jane Shore's name is not very well-known in England today. In fact, Edward IV may be better-known today for the fact that he was the father of the tragic Princes in the Tower.

Nevertheless, Edward IV and Jane Shore have their place in history and paintings like this keep them in public memory. This painting is housed in the Tate Collection, so depending on location, it may be seen in any one of the Tate family of galleries. Even for the artist, this would have been a historical scene. It's set in the 15th century and this was painted in the 19th century, a few centuries after the occurrence. For us, it has double historical value, both as a 15th-century scene and as a 19th-century painting. It's a clear forerunner of the romantic school of painting.

The Creator of this Work of Art

The artist who painted this historical scene is William Blake. Blake was a talented poet and artist who wasn't very famous during his lifetime. This artist, who was also an established poet, was known to be eccentric. However, posthumously, he is known as a forerunner of the Romantic Movement. He is now revered, which is not how he was treated during his lifetime. He tends to be better known for his poetry rather than for his paintings. Both his poetry and his visual artwork show a lot of talent. He worked hard on his visual artwork, leaving a diverse body of work. He created engravings, pen and ink illustrations and dramatic paintings such as the one under discussion.